I was recently at a Polito Ibañez concert and it came to me that years ago—though he was one of my favorite trova singers—I had preferred not to look at his face while he sang.
It made me feel nauseous looking at him and I always wondered why, though I don’t think I was so eager to find out the answer.
A long time had gone by, but this time I only laughed when I looked at him with no problem at all. Then I “remembered” the reason for the nausea.
Like many people born in Cuba, I had to spend high school in an institution out in the country, surrounded by fields and from which I could only leave every 15 days, an old story from the Special Period crisis.
Two weeks straight living with students and teachers gave us even more time to get to know each other. Back then teachers had to do guardia more often, which meant staying overnight at the school.
One of my close friends fell in love with the Marxism professor. The previous year she had been selected as a member of the Young Communist league (UJC), and he—coincidentally—was the head of the school’s UJC Committee.
I was amazed with the rare pleasure my friend found in him, because this teacher was notorious for his “raging B.O.” and for his occasionally asphyxiating “dragon breath,” as we used to say.
Otherwise, I didn’t have any major problems with him. I would simply let him give his long recitations without paying any attention, because after my years of training it was pretty easy to simply parrot anything he might want us to say.
At the beginning of the three years of senior high I spent there, the teachers were more careful when it came to sexual involvement with students. As discreetly as possible, they would meet them in their homerooms in the middle of the night.
However with the increase of guardias, the lack of food and the generally chaotic situation around our school, my friend became confounded by it all.
Everyone knew that the principal was taking students into his office, and one of them—who slept in my dorm and who was apparently the most in love with him—used to receive little love taps from him from time to time, maybe when his alcohol was making him too despondent.
This was why the Marxism teacher, who had ended a “relationship” with another student, had no need to hide the relationship and could walk hand in hand with my friend in public. What a relief for them both, but I think that it aroused the curiosity of the other female students. Consequently, the teacher had a small bevy of young girls behind him, each waiting for their turn.
I don’t know how many he had – who cares? He alternated between them and my friend, who wanted so hard to believe his promises of fidelity.
The issue of faithfulness never interested me, nor do I assume it in the possessive sense of most people. I don’t care what people choose to do in their own lives, and even less what they want to do with their own bodies.
But what was beginning to catch my attention was the slight moral downplaying on one side and the high-sounding moralizing and politicking on the other. The principal did this while prohibiting many things and requiring lots of other things from us, though neither he nor the other teachers were anywhere close to being the best examples.
I was a little rebellious back then and I think that in my own way I demonstrated my discomfort with all of that.
Still, maybe I didn’t demonstrate it enough, because even after I left there I continued to be repulsed by anything that reminded me of this and other “interesting” anecdotes from my countryside school.
And poor Polito—who happens to look a hell-of-a-lot like the Marxism teacher—was the one who bore the worst brunt.
Fortunately, he never knew anything about it.